Breitbart editor Yiannopoulos loses book deal and dropped from CPAC after pedophilia comments

Breitbart editor Yiannopoulos loses book deal and dropped from CPAC after pedophilia comments
Breitbart editor Yiannopoulos loses book deal and dropped from CPAC after pedophilia comments

Yiannopoulos’s comments, which quickly created an uproar online over the weekend, put many conservatives in a deeply uncomfortable position. They have long defended Yiannopoulos’s attention-seeking stunts and racially charged antics on the grounds that the left had tried to hypocritically censor his right to free speech.

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But endorsing pedophilia, it seemed, was more than they could tolerate. The board of the American Conservative Union, which includes veterans of the conservative movement like Grover Norquist and Morton Blackwell, made the decision to revoke Yiannopoulos’s speaking slot and condemn his comments on Monday.

“We initially extended the invitation knowing that the free speech issue on college campuses is a battlefield where we need brave, conservative standard-bearers,” Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in a written statement.

Regarding Mr. Yiannopoulos’s comments, Schlapp called them “disturbing” and said Yiannopoulos’s explanation of them was insufficient.

Late Monday, Yiannopoulos said that he would hold a conference on Tuesday to discuss his statements.

Yiannopoulos, who has railed against Muslims, immigrants, transgender people and women’s rights, is a marquee contributor to Breitbart News, where he serves as senior editor. He has amassed a fan base for his stunts and often-outrageous statements. But by Monday afternoon, his future at the website was being intensely debated by top management.

One Breitbart journalist, who requested anonymity to describe private deliberations, described divisions in the newsroom over whether Yiannopoulos could stay on. There was some consensus among staff members that his remarks were more extreme than his usual speech, the journalist said, and executives were discussing by telephone whether his apology was enough to preserve his position at the site.

A Breitbart representative declined to comment.

After the video was leaked on Twitter by a conservative group called the Reagan Battalion, Yiannopoulos denied that he had ever condoned child sexual abuse, noting that he was a victim himself. He blamed his “British sarcasm” and “deceptive editing” for leading to a misunderstanding.

But in the tape, the fast-talking polemicist is clear that he has no problem with older men abusing children as young as 13, which he then conflates with relationships between older and younger gay men who are of consenting age.

“No, no, no. You’re misunderstanding what pedophilia means,” Yiannopoulos says on the tape, in which he is talking to radio hosts in a video chat. “Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty,” he adds, dismissing the fact that 13-year-olds are children.

The notion of consent, he says, is “arbitrary and oppressive.”

At one point in the video, an unknown speaker says that the behavior being defended by Yiannopoulos is akin to molestation by Catholic priests. Yiannopoulos responds, in an ironic tone, by crediting a priest for having helped develop his sexual technique.

Conservatives reacted with near unanimous disgust at the comments. Some expressed bewilderment that conference organizers would extend an invitation to Yiannopoulos in the first place, given his history of statements that have been offensive to blacks and Muslims, and have generally pushed the bounds of decency. Twitter has banned him.

“Colossal misjudgment,” Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, wrote on Twitter. “Now CPAC has put itself in the role of ‘censor.’ And for what? Some clicks and headlines?”

Until now, Yiannopoulos, a fervent supporter of President Trump, had emerged as something of a hero to many on the right, who saw in him an eager and willing combatant against a culture they believed was too politically correct. He became a star at Breitbart, the hard-right news outlet, and earned the admiration of Stephen K. Bannon, who was its publisher before becoming Trump’s chief White House strategist.

Yiannopoulos was just getting a foothold in the media. He recently appeared on the comedian Bill Maher’s HBO talk show, and aggressively taunted liberals without much pushback from the host. His book “Dangerous,” a free-speech manifesto and memoir that he sold in December to Threshold Editions, a conservative imprint within Simon & Schuster, had shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list, based on advance orders.

The publisher had encountered mounting criticism of its relationship with Yiannopoulos. The author Roxane Gay withdrew from her contract for a book with a Simon & Schuster imprint in protest.

The company stood by Yiannopoulos even as his planned lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, was canceled after students rioted.

But in a terse statement late Monday, the publisher said it was canceling the book “after careful consideration.”

In a statement released through his agent, Yiannopoulos said: “The people whose views, concerns and fears I am articulating do not sip white wine and munch canapés in gilded salons. And they will not be defeated by the cocktail set running New York publishing. Nor will I.”

The decision is likely to be a costly one for Simon & Schuster, which may not be able to recover the portion of the reported $250,000 advance it had already paid to Yiannopoulos. “Dangerous” had sold just under 50,000 copies, according to his literary agent, Thomas Flannery Jr., who said he planned to find another publisher.

Jeremy W. Peters reported from Washington, Alexandra Alter from San Diego and Michael M. Grynbaum from New York.

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